Head First

Head First | Alastair Santhouse

Written as if the mind-body connection is a ‘new’ idea that the author came up with himself. D’uh!

To say that I was very disappointed by Head First is an understatment. The description says “eminent psychiatrist Dr Alastair Santhouse draws on his experience of treating thousands of hospital patients to show how our emotions are inextricably linked to our physical wellbeing.” I eagerly anticipated reading about all the insights he had gained from this experience, notably his insights into treating psychosomatic problems.

Unfortunately, the ‘insight’ stops there. Yes, the mind and the body are connected and troubles in the mind cause trouble in the body. Boom. No further information about what to do about this (apart from the implied ‘see a psychiatrist’). I have the greatest respect for psychiatry and psychology professionals and their role in treating the mind and psychosomatic illness, but I expect a book on this topic to go a lot deeper than this.

Early in the book, the author decries the fact that modern [mainstream] medicine separates the mind and body (‘Cartesian dualism’) and fails to recognise that the mind and body are deeply connected.

Then he scornfully dismisses all forms of alternative medicine.:

“Alternative health beliefs are part of a mindset that at one end of the spectrum is a benign and harmless addition to standard medical care, and at the other end merges into overt conspiracy theory and paranoia. […] many alternative health conceptualizations of how the body works are at odds with accepted science. Illnesses are thought of in simplistic ways that fit the particular alternative medical theory […] Sometimes [alternative health theories] appeal to common sense in the way that it is common sense to think the earth is flat if you look as far as you can along a sandy beach.”

Wow. That’s tarring with a broad brush indeed, and it displays a huge degree of ignorance of a whole range of alternative health theories.

Then the rest of the book is just lots of examples to demonstrate that many health issues are actually rooted in people’s minds; their traumatic life histories, their unhappiness, their loneliness, etc. Since this very ‘insight’, the mind-body connection, is at the heart of many, if not most, so-called ‘alternative health theories’, it is astonishing to see the theme treated like this. He writes the whole book as if the mind-body connection was a ‘new’ idea that he came up with thanks to his years of experience. He didn’t.

If you are interested in genuinely helpful books about the mind-body connection, psychosomatic illness and – most importantly – how to get relief from or even cure your symptoms, I highly recommend looking into books by:

  • Dr John Sarno
  • Steven Ray Ozanich
  • Suzanne O’Sullivan
  • Dr David Clarke
  • Dr Howard Schubiner…

… and other books on mind-body syndrome. Or just google mind-body medicine, mind-body syndrome or psychophysiologic disorders. There’s a wealth of information out there. And while some might consider it ‘alternative medicine’ it is certainly not quackery written by flat-earthers.

Read instead:

It’s All In Your Head. Suzanne O’Sullivan’s excellent book about psychosomatic illness.

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